Lesson 13: You’re not published until you’re in print (and sometimes not even then)
Deals fall over for all sorts of reasons, so don’t count your chickens until they’re roosting in a thousand bookshops. Here are some of the most common deal breakers, all of which have happened to writers I know or have heard about:
- There was a ‘misunderstanding’ when the publisher made your agent an offer for your book. You don’t get a publishing contract after all, or you get a contract but a worse deal than originally offered.
- The publisher goes bankrupt before your book is published. If they’ve paid the advance, you keep it. If they haven’t, you’re back in the queue.
- Your editor leaves or is fired and her replacement hates your book and decides not to publish it. You keep the advance though.
- The publisher is having a tough time and decides that they would lose money publishing your book, so cans it. You keep the advance and, if you’re lucky, they might pay you a small sum in lieu.
- The editor loves your book and offers a terrific hardcover deal and great promotion, but the sales department or the major book buyers don’t agree that it has big sales potential. You get downgraded to paperback, with little or no promotion, and your potential income and sales are massively reduced.
- Your book is found to be libellous and the publisher doesn’t want to get sued, so they cancel publication, or if it’s been printed, they withdraw the book and pulp it. You’ve violated your contract and have to pay back the advance, and they could even sue you for their losses.
- Your non-fiction book is proven to be fraudulent, ditto.
Keep your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed. With sky-high expectations, you’ll be disappointed even if the book does well.